For the Venice Art Biennale 2017 The French pavilion has been transformed by Xavier Veilhan and the pavilion’s curators, the artist Christian Marclay and Lionel Bovier, director of MAMCO, into a musical space in which professional musicians from all over the world can come and play throughout the duration of the exhibition.
“I imagine an overall environment: an immersive installation that propels visitors to the world of the recording studio and that is inspired by the pioneering work of Kurt Schwitters, the Merzbau (1923-1937). Musicians from all backgrounds are invited to bring this recording studio-sculpture to life, as it becomes home to their creations during the seven months of the Biennale. The pavilion merges visual arts and music, with a nod not only to Bauhaus and the experiments of Black Mountain College but also Doug Aitken’s Station to Station.” - Xavier Veilhan
It is no accident that the word “studio”, in both English and Italian, is used to denote a place that houses both musicians and artists. Teamwork is one of the central pillars of Xavier Veilhan’s atelier, and he has always expressed his desire for collaboration, in contrast to the common perception of the “lone creator”. Studio Venezia is fully in keeping with this desire, bringing together musicians, sound technicians, programmers and producers, amongst others. In this immersive installation that blurs the architectural lines initially drawn up for the French pavilion (designed in 1912 by the Venetian engineer Faust Finzi), floors, walls and ceilings collide to form a landscape of wood and fabrics that reveals a fully operational recording studio. Inspired by additive and intuitive construction methods. This overall artwork evokes not only Kurt Schwitter’s Merzbau but also the phonic devices used during recordings.
Numerous instruments, are integrated into the space, enable musicians from different horizons and genres (from classical to electronic and from new music compositions to folkloric styles) to work on site, either individually or collaboratively. The presence of sound technicians and an impressive guest list of musicians ensures the possibility to experiment with sound, at the same time as encouraging unexpected collaborations. Musicians are free to decide how they wish to use their time in the pavilion and they retain full ownership of their performances, thus leaving with their own recordings and a compilation of their work with others. Rather than attending concerts, visitors are instead be invited to listen, watch and bear witness to musical creations in progress. One-off actions replace shows, and consumption makes way for discovery - as contemplative as it may be - as individuals move around the installation. Visitors attend these sessions more by accident than through planning, as the pavilion’s activities stretch out over the 173 working days of the Biennale, and the list of musicians present has only been partially unveiled in advance. The project’s creator, who will be present during the seven months of the Biennale, hopes the pavilion will become a living, breathing space rather than a passive receptacle for predetermined programmes.
Around a hundred musicians from various countries will be coming to Venice to work, think and play for audiences of art lovers who are not necessarily there to hear them play. The team behind the project hopes it will be seen as the only one of its kind today that enables a form of interaction that breaks away from a cultural industry which declares itself the keeper of both the “fringe” and the “unplugged”. The cards that, when dealt, lead to the same old hierarchies between renowned, experimental and amateur musicians will be reshuffled, leading to a responsive programme that visitors won’t know in advance. Digital means are utilised in order to prolong and entich the visitor’s experience. An application broadcasts the pavilion’s sound feed in real time. Since conceiving his idea, Xavier Veilhan has envisaged his Venice exhibition not as an end in itself but as the first step in an international journey. This travel dynamic corresponds fully to the philosophy behind the project, which functions, in the artist’s own words, as a “musical reflector”. Sensitive to the realities and geographical location of the installation, Xavier Veilhan has invited musicians who are the embodiment of their country or city – but also those just passing through on specific dates – and offers them a unique musical experience within the pavilion’s specially-designed space. This guiding principle will change and manifest itself differently depending on the context. Thanks to invitations from several partners via the Institut français, Studio Venezia will soon after become Studio Buenos Aires then Studio Lisboa. The project will be presented in July 2018 at the CCK in Buenos Aires, then in the autumn at the MAAT, Lisbon’s brand new museum of art, architecture and technology.
About the artist
Xavier Veilhan, born in 1963 and currently living and working in Paris, studied successively at the École Nationale Supérieure des Art Décoratifs in Paris (1982-1983), the Hochschule der Künste (Art University) in Berlin (under Georg Baselitz) and the Centre Pompidou’s Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques (1989-1990), run by Pontus Hultén. Since the mid-1980s he has created an acclaimed body of works (sculpture, painting, installation, performance, video and photography) defined by his interest in both the vocabulary of modernity and classical statuary. His work pays tribute to the inventions and inventors of modernity, through a formal artistic language that mixes the codes of both industry and art. He has a long-standing interest in the often-evolving exhibition space in which the visitor becomes an actor. He nourishes his material research with regular musical collaborations with artists like the band Air, musician Sébastien Tellier or pioneer composer Eliane Radigue.
In 2009, he set up the exhibition Veilhan Versailles in the Palace and gardens of Versailles. Between 2012 and 2014, he developed Architectones, a series of interventions in seven major modernist buildings around the world. His interest for architecture was taken to a new level in 2014 when he designed the château de Rentilly. In 2015 he directed two films that extend these spatial explorations: Vent Moderne (La Villette, Paris) and Matching Numbers (3e Scene, Opéra national de Paris). A regular when it comes to projects in the public space, Xavier Veilhan has installed sculptures in various cities in France - Bordeaux (Le Lion, 2004), Tours (Le Monstre, 2004), Lyon (Les Habitants, 2006) – as well as abroad - New York (Jean-Marc, 2012), Shanghai (Alice, 2013), Séoul (The Skater, 2015). He is represented by Andréhn-Schiptjenko (Stockholm), Galerie Perrotin (New York, Hong Kong, Paris, Séoul, Tokyo), Galeria Nara Roesler (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, New York) and 313 Art Project (Séoul).
To date, around a hundred artists have been invited to participate in Studio Venezia. The list below shows the first confirmations
Chloé & Vassilena Serafimova
Dario Tronchin – Chevel
Dorothée de Koon & Arnaud Fleurent-Didier
Emanuele Wiltsch Barberio, Luigi De Angelis & Sabina Meyer
Farrah el Dibany & Federico Tibone - Académie de l’Opéra de Paris
Flavien Berger & Infinite Bisous
Francesco Dillon & Ruido Vermelho
Gabriele Mitelli & Pasquale Mirra
Giovanni Mancuso, Cecilia Vendrasco & Alba Dal Collo
Maxime Le Guil
Mike Cooper, Mazen Kerbaj & Pat Thomas
My cat is an alien
Nicola di Croce
Nicolas Godin & Ira Trevisan
PurpleGeorges & Yujim
Rhodri Davies & Lina Lapelyte
Romain Turzi & Judah Warsky
Sébastien Tellier & Mr Oizo
Solrey Desplat & Michelle Agnès
Where is Mr R ?
Yannis Kyriakides & Andy Moor
Zombie Zombie & Clémens Hourrière
as well as the students from the Venice Conservatory,
and many others.